Of the 25 most densely populated counties in the United States, 23 are along a coastline. New York City has over 500 miles of coastline and, as Superstorm Sandy showed, it is vulnerable to “once a century” storms that now seem to come every couple of years.
And Sandy didn’t just impact the Financial District. The superstorm also took a toll on another body of water where flooding did extraordinary damage to communities like Breezy Point, Far Rockaway and Howard Beach: Jamaica Bay. The storm was a clear reminder of the importance of protecting Jamaica Bay and 880,000 people live along its shores.
That’s why today I was proud to join Mayor Bloomberg, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan at Jamaica Bay to announce that after a rigorous planning process, supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, a consortium led by the City University of New York has been selected to lead the development of a new Science and Resilience Institute in Jamaica Bay. The Rockefeller Foundation has contributed nearly $2 million towards the development of the Institute and the planning of a new 10,000 acre Great Urban Park in Jamaica Bay.
The Rockefeller Foundation has been actively pursuing resilience for many years — in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, in Africa’s agricultural markets, and in cities across Asia. In New York, we made our first grant on this work in 2011, and in that grant we specified need for a Resilience Center, almost two years before Superstorm Sandy was even a blip on the radar. We could not have asked for a better partner than Mayor Bloomberg, who was not afraid to take big risks to make this a reality.
The Jamaica Bay Science and Resilience Institute is our first investment in a bricks and mortar facility for resilience — that’s because, quite frankly, it will be the first center of its kind anywhere in the world.
But New York is not alone in the need for this kind of bold action. Cities around the world must do more to increase the resilience before disasters happen. That’s why the Rockefeller Foundation is investing more than $100 million in building urban resilience: to help cities, people, and institutions prepare for, withstand and emerge stronger from acute shocks and chronic stresses. Our most recent efforts include a 100 Resilient Cities challenge that will select 100 cities around the globe and provide technical support and resources for developing and implementing plans for urban resilience, helping cities to leverage billions of additional dollars in infrastructure financing. Applications are open at 100resilientcities.org.
The Jamaica Bay Science and Resilience Institute is our first investment in a bricks and mortar facility for resilience — that’s because, quite frankly, it will be the first center of its kind anywhere in the world. And it is an idea whose time has come.
The storm was a clear reminder of the importance of protecting Jamaica Bay and 880,000 people live along its shores.
At the Rockefeller Foundation we help bring together scientists and researchers thinking about resilience, with practitioners and policymakers who can translate those findings to concrete action. We believe this Institute will play an important role in ensuring those efforts are coordinated, comprehensive and streamlined, not only for the benefit of those living in Jamaica Bay, but can be a model for other likeminded institutions that can impact billions of people living in fragile urban ecosystems around the world.